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Hungary edges Russia; Yugoslavia, Croatia roll

A dramatic lob by Tamas Kasas with eight seconds left gave Hungary an 8-7 victory over Russia in a battle of medal contenders as the water polo tournament opened Saturday.

In the first match of the competition, Yugoslavia, a three-time champion when it still included six republics, returned to Olympic water polo by winning 11-8 over the Netherlands. Yugoslavia now consists only of Serbia and Montenegro.

The Yugoslavs were barred from the 1992 Barcelona Games because of U.N. sanctions.

Croatia, the second powerful team to emerge from the breakup of old Yugoslavia, also began with a victory, beating Greece 8-5 behind three goals by Dubravko Simenc.

Spain, silver medalist four years ago at home in Barcelona, cruised to a 9-3 victory over Germany, helped by good goalkeeping from Jesus Rollan and two goals apiece from Salvador Gomez and Miguel Oca.

Andrei Kovalenko scored his third goal of the game with 16 seconds left to cap a rally by Ukraine from a three-goal deficit in a 6-6 draw with Romania. Romania led 6-3 early in the last quarter, but Ukraine fought back as Kovalenko scored two of his goals in the late run.

Hungary, FINA World Cup champion here one year ago, trailed 5-2 after the first two quarters but battled back to edge the Russians in the first showdown between the water polo powers.

The Hungarians rallied in the third quarter, outscoring Russia 4-1 to pull even at 6. Hungary went ahead for the first time in the last seven-minute quarter, but Alexei Panfili tied the match for Russia.

With Hungary going for a fastbreak in the final seconds, Russian goalkeeper Nikolai Maximov swam far out to try to intercept the attack. But Maximov was called for a foul and while he tried to return to his goal, the ball was slipped to Kasas, who found the empty net with a long-range lob.

"The Russian goalkeeper went out of the goal and I knew I had to put it in," said Kasas, who celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday.